Does ELD resistance suggest an industry’s aversion to technological change?

(Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Commentary

Innovation is sweeping across the trucking industry; technologies such as autonomy, blockchain, and electrification are beginning to demonstrate real value potential. However, the question is, where innovation has been stagnant in the past, is the industry ready for change? The resistance to the ELD mandate may show signs of things to come.

An electronic logging device (ELD) is synchronized with the truck’s engine to monitor the driver’s service hours. The data collected can then be transferred to enforcement personnel for review.

Drivers have a limit of 11 hours of driving and a total on-duty time of 14 hours consecutively.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says the ELD rule “is intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers, and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status (RODS) data. An ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording.”

90-Day ELD Waiver for Livestock Haulers

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a 90-day waiver on the implementation of ELD regulations for the agricultural industry. The regulations were scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 18, 2017. The aim is to smooth the transition for fleets in the industry.

The 90-day waiver allows carriers to continue using the paper logs until March 18, 2018. This gives the FMCSA time to evaluate exception requests filed by ag haulers and industry groups. Organizations like the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), have questioned the hours-of-service mandates affiliated with the ELD.

According to Allison Cooke, NCBA executive director of government affairs, the waiver is a win for the cattle business. The NCBA’s concern is that livestock haulers - as well as law enforcement - may not be aware of the existence of this exemption that includes livestock haulers. NCBA is seeking formal guidance on this interpretation and urges a delay from the ELDs until all parties have more certainty.

ELD is a minor technological milestone at most. The concern is that the trucking industry had two years to prepare for the new regulations. Clarity should have been sought at a much earlier stage to ensure a smooth transition.

Looking Ahead

There is a wider concern, though. The trucking industry to date hasn’t been challenged and when it has it has been slow to adapt to new technology. However, today it faces a new wave of technological innovation. Electrification, self-driving, big data and blockchain applications are set to transform the industry. But, can the industry be flexible and adapt?

The hours-of-service regulation demonstrates the limitations of humans to 11 hours on the road, and with self-driving trucks around the corner and the ability to operate 24 hours of the day, productivity gains will be too appealing to turn down.

Another concern is the pace of change. Tesla has recently announced its electric semi truck with a price tag of $180,000, a potential game changer. Daimler has been testing platoons on U.S roads that shows that autonomous trucks are a real possibility. Last year, Otto, an Uber collaboration, made its first delivery of 50,000 beers.

There is a positive trend of innovation in the trucking industry. The resistance to change with regards the ELD ruling may reflect the current appetite for change; however, the industry will need to jump on board the innovation train at some point or face the reality of falling behind the pack.

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